From the very beginning, COVID-19 affected people in the worst way around the globe. It actually engulfed more lives than any other calamity in the entire history of recent pandemics. Ranging from welfare states to developed countries and even developing and under-developed countries, all are affected badly to their core. However, it was not only the virus which hit people hard as a disease, but the resultant lockdown and shutdown of economies made all financially weak or more precisely, landed them into the quagmire of economic instability.

The poor and especially, the daily wagers suffered because of unemployment. Meanwhile, Oxfam International has warned that the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic could push half a billion more people into poverty unless urgent action is taken to bail out developing countries. The agency called on world leaders to agree to an ‘Economic Rescue Package for All’ to keep poor countries and poor communities afloat. Oxfam also said that more people would be affected by poverty during the pandemic than the disease itself. Furthermore, the World Bank and IMF are also supporting such alarming facts.

Oxfam’s new report, ‘Dignity Not Destitution’ presents fresh analysis which suggests that between six and eight percent of the global population could be forced into poverty as governments shut down entire economies to manage the spread of the virus. This could set back the fight against poverty by a decade, and as much as 30 years in some regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and North Africa. Over half the global population could be living in poverty in the aftermath of the pandemic.

The UN estimates $2.5 trillion is needed to support developing countries through the pandemic; they would also require an additional $500 billion in overseas aid. This includes $160 billion, which Oxfam estimates is needed to boost poor countries’ public health systems and $2 billion for the UN humanitarian fund. Emergency solidarity taxes, such as a tax on extraordinary profits or the very wealthiest individuals, could mobilise additional resources.

However, during the pandemic, Pakistan launched a programme of social protection in the form of Ehsaas Emergency Cash in these hard times for 12 million households in the first phase, and it has been built with long-term goals to increase the pursuit of financial inclusion. It was also built with the aim of shifting the payment ecosystem from cash-based to digital. Initially, 144 billion rupees were allocated, but now the funding has been increased to Rs203 billion. Moreover, the number of individuals to be supported has been increased from 12 million to 16.9 million families, or around 109m individuals; practically half the country will benefit in this fifth most populous country of the world. Additionally, in a country like Pakistan where nearly 40 percent lives in poverty and more than 24 million workers either earn daily or piece-rate wages or are self-employed, the ensuing economic crisis hit the population hard.

Crises like COVID-19 give humankind a once-in-a-generation opportunity to end poverty, inequality and the climate crisis. More, not less, multilateralism is needed to fight coronavirus pandemic. The Alliance for Poverty Eradication can aid this transformation.

While living our routine life, it is difficult to comprehend the problems which a daily wager is going through. Through Ehsaas, the government has managed to accommodate these daily wagers within the best possible means. Within 10 days of the lockdown, Pakistan’s government had launched the Ehsaas Emergency Cash programme. This safety-net was rolled out at unprecedented speed, designed in the short-term to offer immediate relief in the form of $75 to the poorest and hardest hit families.

Pakistan’s largest social safety net programme is now receiving praise for its staunch effort of keeping the poor afloat amid the pandemic. International forums like the World Economic Forum and the Asian Development Bank are appreciating Ehsaas and recognising Pakistan’s efforts to fight poverty in the times of COVID-19.

Deserving individuals in Sindh gain the most from this apolitical decision and Sindh’s share was increased from 22.45 percent to 31 percent.

Foreign diplomats also recognised the scale and design, speed of deployment, transparency safeguards and real-time evaluations hardwired in the success of the largest ever cash support programme in Pakistan; the government’s social protection response to COVID19.

The federal government is also focussing on the eradication of stunted growth of children in Pakistan through Ehsaas, especially in the under-developed areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Sindh. It is also going to open Ehsaas nutrition conditional cash transfer facility in 9 districts with 31 nutrition centres.

To date, more than 254.95 billion rupees other than the cash support have been spent for social protection and poverty alleviation under the Ehsaas programme in different categories including 24.082 billion rupees for interest free loans, 4.8 billion rupees for largest graduate scholarship programme for talented students under HEC; more than 4.5 million women have been benefited under Ehsaas Kafalat programme, more than 6 Ehsaas-Saylani Langar have been opened in Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Islamabad under public-private partnership and ‘Langar on Wheels’ is also serving the poor during pandemic. Under the Ehsaas Income programme, business investments worth Rs1.5 billion have been provided, ration distribution under Ehsaas has also continued for pandemic-hit families, all families of 219 villages near the Line of Control have been included in the Ehsaas Kafalat Programme. This is unprecedented. Furthermore, it proves that true worship is the service of humankind with the right intentions.